Joe Bonamassa Plays the Blues and More at Ruth Eckerd Hall

By on March 31, 2021
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Joe Bonamassa played at Ruth Eckerd Hall on March 29th  in a special socially-distanced power trio performance. This is the first time Joe Bonamassa has performed in a power trio live in almost 20 years and this was only the second show on a very limited six show tour. This concert showcased his rare 3-piece band including Late Night with David Letterman’s Anton Fig on drums and bass player Steve Mackey. But let us not forget the forth member on stage with the band in Jade McCrae on backing vocals who was just amazing all night.

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Over the years, I have been invited to see the legendary blues rock guitarist many times and have passed until 2020 when a friend invited me again and I took him up on it. I told myself prior to that show, that I wanted to go in ‘deaf and blind’, thereby seeing and hearing for myself what Dave had been trying to convey to me for many moons. Let me tell you I was instantly hooked from the first note. Never In all of my concert going days have I ever walked away from a show so completely blown away by the talent I had just witnessed and hungry to hear everything in his discography. With this new found knowledge, Bonamassa is on my list of must see events when he comes to town and to see him play at Ruth Eckerd Hall is an added bonus as the venue is one of the best in the country.

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Being one who is partial to heavy metal music, one might say that Joe Bonamassa’s music is quite a change of pace for me, but heavy metaI and hard rocks roots are based and born from the blues and put Joe in a metal band, a black t-shirt and some jeans and he’ll fit right in.

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As the crowd entered the auditorium and with the lights now dimmed, the band launched into their opening song “Oh Beautiful!” The initial crowd shouts of “Go Joe go!” and the like were quieted down as a hush came over the crowd as the entire audience was mesmerized by his magical mastery of the guitar and his soulful, passionate lyrics. I noticed this hush happening a couple of different times and even Joe took note once jokingly saying “…it doesn’t have to be so quiet in here” and the shouts from the crowd were renewed.

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What really shined through on Monday night was his vocal delivery and his songwriting abilities and this was shown specifically in the second song of the night in “Love Ain’t a Love Song.” Groove, great lyrics and an unstoppable beat. That’s a winning combination. Joe and the band followed that up with a soulful cover of Gary Moore’s “Midnight Blues.” This was the first of five covers of the night which also included “Jockey Full of Bourbon” from Tom Waits and “Blues De Luxe” from Jeff Beck.

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Joe took the crowd on a musical journey by fusing rock-n-roll into the blues and back. A perfect example was during “Lookout Man” which has one of the best bass lines I’ve heard. Even Geezer Butler could appreciate it and possibly be jealous of it. It’s just an intense heavy groove with an aggressive in your face vocal track. It was of my favorite moments of the night.

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Another memorable song for me during the course of many was “Pain and Sorrow.” This track showed the tightness of the band and smoothness of drummer Anton Fig. He isn’t usually in the conversation of the greats, but he should be. Rock solid and just a monster player while teamed up on the back line with Mackey.

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In between song banter was on the comical side as Joe told stories that lead into song titles and then into the songs themselves. He joked that the crowd on the first night of this short tour wasn’t as roused and receptive to a specific song (Wandering Earth) as he had hoped and our crowd would determine if the remaining four shows kept the song in the set list – …”it’s all on you Clearwater.” After one of his extended solos he laughed saying someone had asked him why there was a “prog rock’ section in one of his latest songs and his replay was “…because I f*cking can!”

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After Wandering Earth and “Miss You and Hate You,” the band broke into a rousing edition of “Scuttle Buttin’ by Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble and got anyone that wasn’t on their feet already, up and shaking their money maker.

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As a self professed people watcher, I was pretty much spot in in my pre-show guess that this was mostly middle aged crowd with a few youngsters sprinkled in as parents were taking their kids to see a guitar legend. Some left during “Ballad” but those who did missed out on a strong end to the show with a two song set that included “Woke Up Dreaming” and the Robert Johnson classic “Crossroads” or also know as “Cross Roads Blues.”

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It was a rousing finish to a great night of music by a legend. My friend Sima attended the show with me and It was his first Joe Bonamassa show, and he went in same as I did last year.  Sima noted how impressive Joe’s seemingly effortless crescendo and decrescendo abilities were. We discussed how in tune the audience was with each song. Those hushed moments mentioned prior where everyone was literally waiting with baited breath to hear and absorb every note being played and then giving a rousing ovation at the end of each song.

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The performance I witnessed last night solidified my opinion that Joe Bonamassa is in league with the greats of the past and present and there are a few more dates scheduled for his U.S. tour later this summer. One of those being in one of the most amazing venues in the country at Red Rocks in Denver. If you have the capability to attend, this performance is not to be missed.

For other tour dates and information, go to https://jbonamassa.com/tour-dates/summer-2020-us-tour/

Set list:

Oh Beautiful!
Love Ain’t a Love Song
Midnight Blues (Gary Moore cover)
Lookout Man!
Beyond the Silence
Jockey Full of Bourbon (Tom Waits cover)
Pain and Sorrow
Wandering Earth
Miss You, Hate You
Scuttle Buttin’ (Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble cover)
Blues De Luxe (Jeff Beck cover)
The Ballad of John Henry

Woke Up Dreaming
CrossRoads (Robert Johnson cover)

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1 Comment

  1. JQ says:

    Rock solid review – pun intended. Appreciate all the great details!

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